Academic publishers - the biggest evil you didn't know existed cover image

Academic publishers - the biggest evil you didn't know existed

Dorian Minors • March 2, 2016

This is an archived article from our predecessor website, The Dirt Psychology. The idea there was to take psychological scholarship and turn it into wisdom. The Armchair Collective tries to go a little further than just psychology. As such, these articles live here in archive form, until they're updated.

Did you know that the main academic publishers have higher profit margins than Apple? In 2011, Elsevier made $1.1bn in profit. Lucrative, no? Also, evil. The Guardian compares academic publishers to Rupert Murdoch and a quick search will show you that they aren't the only ones complaining.

Academic publishers are evil

In that same Guardian article, they point out that just three academic publishing companies; Springer, Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell, account for almost half of all academic journals out there. In fact, a study about the publishers of studies (academics can't help but study everything, those scamps), revealed that those three conglomerates publish exactly 42% of all academic work. Why is it so profitable? Well, firstly they don't need to pay for the articles. Academics submit them for free because it's the predominant way one progresses in one's career. Not only that but more often than not journals charge a fee to the authors to publish an article. Then they charge potential readers to read it!

 They are literally causing people's deaths

You know that whole Ebola thing? A freakish disease was suddenly lapping at our doorsteps and we had no advance warning that it was spreading, right? Obviously wrong. Why would I be asking you, hypothetical reader, a question unless it was rhetorical. See? Another rhetorical question and that time I didn't even use a question mark. Sorry, just trying to distract you from just how terrifying Ebola is. Anyway, the most classic example of the dangers of the prohibitively expensive cost of engaging with academic publishers is that of this almost entirely ignored paper. A paper that warned that Ebola was spreading as early as 1982, six years after we discovered it. Unfortunately, the cost of accessing it was half a West African doctor's weekly salary. That's why, to date, the paper has only eight citations.

Also, more mainstream unscrupulous behaviour (like arms trading)

Like the new Research Works Act they're bankrolling through the U.S. legal system now, which will force publicly funded academic work to be published only by them, thus significantly reducing the amount of free-access legitimate research. Or publishing research 'sponsored' by unnamed pharmaceuticals groups without letting us know that the research was probably absolutely biased. Or the more classic 'sue customers when they use our stuff in a way we don't like'. Or how about those times Elsevier just straight up organised some arms trading fairs? Seems like a pretty standard core activity of any publishing company. I think big publishing have just been listening to too much Eminem:

I say the world's already f***ed, I'm just addin' to it

His world view would make anyone go nuts. Want to find out about something else you didn't know? I bet you've been thinking about negative reinforcement all wrong. And onto other unscrupulous behaviours, what about that time a psychologist terrified an infant 'for science'? Turning scholarship into wisdom without the usual noise and clutter, we dig up the dirt on psychological theories you can use. Become an armchair psychologist with The Dirt Psychology.

Turning scholarship into wisdom we can use at The Armchair Collective.

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Dorian Minors

I mostly do brain science. Sometimes I train honeybees. I promise they're related. I made this site because there's no reason why scholars should be the only ones to own knowledge. My special interests are interpersonal relationships, the science of community, spirituality and the brain, and the neural basis of complex behaviour. I hope this stuff is as interesting to you as it is to me. You can find out more about me here.